I learned during the week of the death of the actor, John Hurt. He is someone I have been aware off since my youth and I regard as one of the greats. I put him in the same league as James Mason, Dirk Bogarde and Anthony Hopkins, because like them his screen presence and versatility was so commanding and memorable.
According to Wikipedia: “Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) was an English actor and voice actor whose career spanned six decades. He initially came to prominence for his supporting role as Richard Rich in the film A Man for All Seasons (1966). After this, he played leading roles as John Merrick in David Lynch’s biopic The Elephant Man (1980), Winston Smith in a version of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), Mr. Braddock in the Stephen Frears drama The Hit (1984) and Stephen Ward in the drama depicting the Profumo affair, Scandal (1989). He is also known for his television roles such as Quentin Crisp in the television film The Naked Civil Servant (1975), Caligula in I, Claudius (1976) and the War Doctor in Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor (2013). Hurt’s other films include the prison drama Midnight Express (1978), the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), the adventure film Rob Roy (1995), the political thriller V for Vendetta (2006), the supernatural thriller The Skeleton Key (2005), the sci-fi adventure film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), the Harry Potter film series (2001–11), the Hellboy films (2004 and 2008) and the Cold War espionage film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). His character’s final scene in Alien has been named by a number of publications as one of the most memorable in cinematic history. Recognised for his distinctive rich voice, he also enjoyed a successful voice acting career in films such as Watership Down (1978), the animated The Lord of the Rings (1978), The Black Cauldron (1985) and Dogville (2003), as well as the BBC television series Merlin. One of Hurt’s last films is the biopic Jackie (2016). He will next be in the 2017 film Darkest Hour, as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, due to be released in November 2017. Among his honours, he received two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award and four BAFTA Awards, with the fourth being a Lifetime Achievement recognition for his outstanding contribution to British cinema. He was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama”.
His career spans the years from my youth until the present day. While I do not reckon on being prolific when it comes to watching films, I seem to recall a number of films which featured John Hurt, and the reason for that is because he was such a brilliant actor, whose performances were often haunting and invariably compulsive viewing. I remember first coming across him as Caligula (after who we named our cat) in that brilliant TV drama: “I Claudius”. Later I saw him as Quentin Crisp in “The Naked Civil Servant”, and this was an important early exposure to understanding and being sympathetic to the homosexual perspective. Another early eye opener was when he played John Merrick in “The Elephant Man”. Strangely enough, I saw many of the productions mention in the Wikipedia article and, whatever his role was, John Hurt always stood out. Not mentioned by Wikipedia was his performance in “Rob Roy”, which while a relatively minor part was significant insofar it made the film more than merely ordinary. He is one celebrity knight I have no problem in endorsing.
John Hurt: you are a legend and you gave so much through your art. Thank you and Rest in Peace!